Shock! Horror! Agreeing With Family First!

I wrote my column this past Saturday in support of Labour MP Sue Moroney’s bill to expand paid parental leave from the current 14 weeks to 26 weeks. The bill barely squeaked through its first reading, with the National caucus and John Banks voting No, and it’s now before a select committee. One thing that I hope will come out of that are some costings on the financial benefits of expanded PPL, since the social benefits are pretty obvious.

Well, I think so anyway. But if you want more on that, check out the 26 For Babies campaign page. A few, um, “interesting” comments have already emerged from the Select Committee hearings, including this gem from Paul Clark, owner of the New Zealand Ammunition Company, who opposes the bill and was reported by the DomPost as saying that “Having a family is a choice – almost like buying a luxury car.” A dubious analogy on so many levels…

In researching the column, I asked for a bit more comment from Tauranga’s MP Simon Bridges as well as Family First’s director Bob McCoskrie. As so often happens somewhere in between gathering far too much information and trying to squeeze it into 600 words, I didn’t fit the quotes in, but appreciated that they responded to my query, so I thought I’d put their comments up here. As you can tell if you read the column, I don’t think this is a matter of affordability but of priorities. And, well, also as per the column, I’m a bit weirded out by finding myself on the same side of an issue as Bob, but there you go!

Simon Bridges, Nat.-Tauranga:

This Government is focused on responsibly managing the country’s finances.  It’s important that we get back to surplus and get debt under control, which is why we can’t have Parliament deciding to go off and spend money which we simply don’t have.  I am concerned at the financial implications of nearly doubling the amount of parental leave – Labour’s proposals would cost about $450 million over the first four years and this is money we simply don’t have.

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Fighting Racism

John Ansell is traveling the country “testing the water” for the launch of a “Colourblind State”. He’s coming to Tauranga on Monday 12 November, where I live and where, I fear, he has a lot of sympathy. For a couple of months, I’ve been surveying the Letters to the Editor of The Bay of Plenty Times (where, full disclosure, I currently write a Saturday opinion column), and almost every day there’s one attacking Māori. Here are some excerpts from a few such letters, just to provide a flavour of local sentiment:

10 September: “[The likes of the Maori Party] sit around and think: ‘Well, now we have Chris Finlayson wrapped around our little fingers, what else can we swindle out of those Whites? … It is time that the Waitangi Tribunal listened to claims from settlers who not only rescued Maori from total geographic and social exile and a savage way of life which was spiralling toward extinction, but they placed the whole world, with the knowledge and expertise of thousands of years’ experience at their disposal. Where is the gratitude?”

12 September: “In the name of sanity, when is Prime Minister John Key going to grow a pair and slap these greedy Maori agitators down once and for all? … As for ‘Mana’, every nation who have [sic] been conquered had to adjust and get on with it. No more excuses, these part-Maori people have to grow up and face reality.”

14 September: “The sooner we end this Waitangi apartheid tribunal and grievance industry the better off the country will be.”

21 September: “How far does the country go in setting right the ‘grievances of the past’ before it becomes simply a case of ‘hands in the lolly jar?’”

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